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Employee Burnout in the Workplace

Employee burnout in the workplace is real.  So, what is it and how are employers able to assist employees to get through it? There are many things that employers may do to assist employees who suffer from burnout, but first let’s define what it means.

According to Ask and Expert author Ashley Janssen, employee burnout is defined as physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion caused by chronic unmanaged stress and is characterized by extreme fatigue, cynicism and negativity, and feelings of decreased professional ability.  When experiencing burnout, employees generally feel exhausted all the time, dislike their job, have reduced energy, motivation and creativity, feel less capable in their jobs, and experience a loss of personal identity.  Janssen continues to emphasize that the burnout is a result of unrealistic deadlines and uneven workload distribution and happens when expectations for what someone is supposed to achieve are beyond what they are capable of completing.

There are many things that may lead to job burnout and employers should be aware of them so that they are able to help their employees identify areas where they may need support.

  • Lack of control and the inability to influence decisions that affect their job to include: scheduling, assignments or workload, or the lack of resources to complete a job.
  • Unclear expectations of what the employee should be doing in their job with regards to priorities, authority, or goals.
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics where an employee feels micromanaged, undermined, or bullied.
  • Overwhelming amounts of work where the employee needs to remain focused for long periods of time.
  • Inefficient processes or workflows that hinders the employee’s ability to complete their work efficiently.
  • Isolation in the workplace and in the employee’s personal life where they don’t feel like they are supported as well as little or no recognition of an employee’s efforts or achievements.
  • No work-life balance where the employee is working too much and there is not enough time or energy to spend with family and friends.

So, what may employers do to address situations in the workplace where they believe that employees may be suffering from job burnout?

  • Lead by example. Leaders should model self-care by participating in exercise, mindfulness, and by communicating and supporting employees who may be suffering from burnout. Leaders communicating about what has been challenging for them and how they are trying to manage both work and home responsibilities may help employees feel like they may open up about those issues too.
  • Encourage employees to take breaks away from their workplace in order to recharge. Also, encouraging them to use their available paid time off to enjoy events away from work may be helpful.
  • Allow flexible work environments where employees may work flexible hours. Also, allowing employees to work remotely, if they don’t already, when the occasion presents itself may be helpful.
  • Communicate realistic goals with clear action steps and deadlines. Lack of communication is one of the leading factors that leads to employees feeling stressed, as they are not aware of what their expectations are in the workplace. So, sitting down with employees to discuss what the expectations are within their job and setting clear goals is always important.
  • Connect one on one with employees on a regular basis. Having weekly or biweekly meetings with each employee leads to better communication and is an opportunity for leaders to discern where an employee may need assistance in their jobs. Remember to engage in conversations about what is happening away from work too. Also, remember that if the employee is showing signs of distress to listen more than engage in talking.
  • Work with employees to review and adjust work practices where possible. This may often be accomplished during the weekly or biweekly meetings as stated above. Providing additional help or resources for the employee to better accomplish their tasks and goals is generally appreciated by employees.
  • Recognize achievements and reward where possible. Remember it is the small things that make a difference. Recognizing and rewarding employees for a job well done should be an ongoing task for all employers.
  • Remind employees that is it okay to not be okay and that asking for help is okay. Accessing mental health services is not the “last resort” and proving information on mental health services available through the employer’s medical insurance plan, or having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) available for employees to utilize are both good resources.

Employee burnout in the workplace can be a very serious situation for the worker who is impacted. If it is not addressed, it may evolve into serious performance or behavioral issues. Extreme cases my even put a premature end to an otherwise promising career. Employee burnout may also cause problems within a team, with job satisfaction, and employee turnover. So, employers need to recognize the signs when an employee is suffering from burnout, address each situation head on and show support for the employee in their recovery efforts. Not doing so will lead to increased rates of employee turnover, chances of tarnishing the employer’s brand, and issues with sourcing or hiring high-quality candidates in the future. So, employers are encouraged to make sure that they follow the guidelines as listed above in order to continue to promote wellness in their work environments.

For additional information on employee burnout in the workplace, please contact us at www.NewFocusHR.com.

Written By:    Kristen Deutsch, M.B.A., CCP






New Focus HR is a human resources consulting and training company that services all organizations. Our expert team collaborates with businesses to attract, motivate, retrain and retain their biggest assets, employees. While engaged with an organization, our focus is to find solutions that improve the company’s internal HR-related practices while increasing results at the same time! Our focus. Your results.